The shot cut to a couple pairs of feet on a bed. Seductively, the camera panned up the taut legs, past the titillatingly short cheerleading skirts, up an arched back. Finally, it rested on the faces of two ultra-fine cheerleaders. Oh, and they were making out, more or less.
No, this was not some porn movie, but rather “Duets,” the episode of Glee that aired on October 12th. The scene depicted the first on-screen kiss between cheerleaders Santana (Naya Rivera) and Brittany (Heather Morris) and, like most episodes of the show, probably aimed to bust up stereotypes and open minds. But unfortunately — and also like so much of what Glee does — the moment instead fell back onto the very stereotypes it sought to dispense.
And what are those stereotypes? In this case, it seems to be that lesbians (or, maybe, bisexual women, as both characters also date men) are hot and lusty nymphs with little clothing and even fewer scruples. And maybe there are some people like that. But it also seems that most people, regardless of their sexual orientation — or experimentation — are real people. Which is to say, in other words, that a romantic, same-sex scene fitting the exact description of a chauvinistic sex fantasy is not particularly progressive, intelligent or original.
Glee is an imperfect show for many reasons — bad pacing, shallow and unsympathetic characters, a frequent complete lack of narrative cohesion — but I can’t say it routinely offends me. In fact, in the newly tea-bagged America, Glee’s aggressive diversity is refreshing. For all its problems, I continue to dig the show’s obvious agenda of promoting tolerance toward just about everyone. Sometimes, such as in the case of Kurt’s (Chris Colfer) relationship with his father, the show even manages to affectingly tackle important issues.
But when Glee falls back on a visual stereotype like “lesbian cheerleaders,” it undermines the noble, if biting, proselytizing it spends so much time on. Art doesn’t always need to provide a pattern for ethical living, but what exactly does the stereotype accomplish in this case? Maybe it’s a kind of satire, but of what? Porn?
Just to be clear, the issue here is this one scene from “Duets,” and the porn-ish way it was produced (costuming, cinematography, narrative justification, etc.). The following week, during the episode “The Rocky Horror Glee Show,” Brittany and Santana shared a couple of flirty moments that seemed more charming, while also developing their characters. With more moments like that, make-out scenes would feel like just another part of an exuberant and delightful romance. As it was in “Duets,” however, any humanity gets stripped away, leaving all but an endorsement of the hyper-erotic, same-sex stereotypes common in media targeted at straight males.
In any case, maybe I’m just a perv, seeing porn in places it doesn’t exist. Maybe I don’t get it. I also know that many people in the gay community have commended Glee generally and, in some cases, this episode specifically. But the show’s lesbian-cheerleader makeout scene seemed a lot closer to porn than entertainment.
More importantly, it seems to run contrary to the show’s overarching objectives and internal standards. Ultimately, it was hypocritical and crossed the line because, at best, it hinted that sexuality doesn’t come with emotion or commitment, it just requires a couple of impossibly hot bodies. And, at worst, it suggested that homosexuality isn’t so much a gender identity as it is a marketing tactic to get horny straight dudes turned on.